Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens & Writing On Stone Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I traveled South to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. We set off on our journey at 9:00am. Lethbridge is only a 2 hour drive away along Highway 2. It’s typically a fairly boring drive, and this was no exception. There’s a few weeks out of the year where I find it pleasant to drive, and that’s the first few weeks of August when the canola fields are in full bloom before harvesting. If you go during the right time of year it looks as beautiful as shown below.

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When we arrived in Lethbridge we stopped at the Firestone Restaurant & Bar at the Coast Hotel. I had the Sonoma Chicken Sandwich and Julie had the Chicken Burger. After lunch we drove to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens overlook Henderson Lake. They were designed by Dr. Masami Sugimoto and Dr. Tadashi Kubo, both from Osaka, Japan. The pavilion, shelter, bridges, and gates were built in Kyoto, Japan by five artisans, who eventually re-assembled them in the garden. It was opened on July 14th 1967. The gardens took 21 months to construct. While we were there there was a Taiko percussion instrument demonstration, which was fantastic!

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After visiting the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens we drove about 1.5 hours to Writing On Stone Provincial Park. The last time I went to this park was 6 years ago. We completed a small hike / walk that took about an hour to complete. Writing On Stone became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, and is a very sacred park to the Blackfoot Tribe. The beautiful, yet small, park has a tremendous amount of sandstone outcrops, which were deposited along the edge of a large inland sea from about 84 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.

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After visiting Writing On Stone we started the long 3.5 hour drive back to Calgary, with a quick stop in Lethbridge for dinner at Chopped Leaf.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which is the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Japan – Osaka

The next stop on my trip to Japan was Osaka. Osaka definitely feels a lot busier than Kyoto and has a completely different vibe as well. Osaka felt very westernized compared to Kyoto. I spent three days in Kyoto, including a side trip to a wonderful place called Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site; more on that later.

Osaka was very different from Kyoto. I found the castle in Osaka to be better, and it was a more modern city, but my favorite of the two has to be Kyoto. Osaka had a great metro system, a great zoo, a super cool building called Umeda Sky Building, a great museum on the history of the city, and some really pretty temples. I also tried Sake for the first time here!

Stay tuned for the last installment of my Japan series where I visit the beautiful city of Hiroshima!

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Japan – Kyoto

The next stop on my Japan trip was Kyoto. I took a high speed train from Nagoya to Kyoto, which took only a few hours. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things I wanted to see in Kyoto, since I only had a few days there, so I started viewing immediately after leaving the train station. I went to Toji, where there was hundreds of golden buddha statues. The view was beyond spectacular, but out of respect for the culture I didn’t take any photos as it is considered to suck the soul from the statue, or something like that.

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After visiting Toji I took the local metro, and walked to the place I was staying at, called the Uraraka Guest House. I thought it would be ready by 3pm, but it wasn’t, so I dropped off most of my stuff, and walked over to Nijo Castle in the Nakagyo ward. This castle was really neat and was completely surrounded by a moat! The castle was built in 1679, and was actually used all the way until 1939! Some of the buildings have suffered from multiple fires and typhoons.

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After visiting the castle I went back to the guest house to relax for a bit before heading out for the evening, where I spent my time in Gion district, which was phenomenal. There was so many amazing beautiful sights, geisha’s, amazing ramen, beautiful gardens, and a tiny little back street called Kiya-machi Dori. Picture’s don’t even do this place justice!

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The next day I visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, which was actually just a 30 minute train ride from the city, but technically still part of the city. This place was breathtaking, I’ve never seen this many bamboo trees before, and certainly none this tall. I experimented with my camera a bit to get the shot I was looking for. After walking through the forest (which is actually quite small), I stumbled on this beautiful riverfront, where I saw locals doing Cormorant fishing. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method where trained cormorants are used to fish in the rivers. This tradition dates back to 960 AD!!!

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Later on in the evening I met up with two friends who also happened to be visiting from Calgary, Haley and her boyfriend. We spent the evening walking the Gion district and had some delicious ramen!

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The next day was a very special one for me. I got to see so many beautiful shrines, beautiful architecture, and eat delicious food during the day, but my highlight was going to the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine to watch the sunset from the top of Mt. Inari. This site has over 10,000 Torrii gates, all painted orange. This place is beyond breathtaking. I felt very spiritual to be there.

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Stay tuned for my next post, where I travel onwards to Osaka!

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